Thursday, 13 February 2014

'Carthage' Finborough Theatre ***

The intimate fifty seat Finborough Theatre has been presenting new plays and musicals from up and coming writers since it first opened in June 1980 and my first experience here for Chris Thompson’s ‘Carthage’ was a good one to start off with.  ‘Carthage’ draws from the playwright’s experiences of 12 years as a Social Worker, of who he dealt with young offenders and he creates an unflattering portrait of life within a young offenders institute and the pressures of social work.  We see teenager Tommy being forcedly controlled by three prison guards because Tommy is a live wire and makes his social workers, Sue’s life a living nightmare and his mum, who was 15 when he was conceived is not a brilliant influence towards him and it is shocking to learn that there are 73 files to document her incredibly frenzied history. Thompson’s writing is of a good standard for an emerging playwright, but some scenes are far too long for one to really engage with and the over use of foul language is unnecessary especially “c***t”. On the other hand, the characters are well developed and satisfactory wit through Thompson’s dialogue. I thought that the performances were very good, in particular the three lead characters. Jack McMullen, who you may know from popular BBC drama ‘Waterloo Road’ portrays Tommy’s mix of vulgarity and vulnerability to a good standard of finish. Toby Wharton provides us with a sensitive approach as the guard Marcus, who’s incredibly harsh with his words and actions but the character can be subtle when he needs to be. Claire-Louise Cordwell is ultimately petrifying as Tommy’s mother where she is full of anger and an intense range of sarcasm that makes you gasp by her immense rudeness towards authority figures. Robert Hastie’s direction is an interesting one as we are made to feel like voyeurs and court jurors in traverse styled staging and as the Finborough Theatre is an intimate space it feels somewhat uncomfortable due to the fact that the play is full of fury and violence. It does make you question the responsibilities a parent has in ensuring a good life for his/her child. I found James Perkins’ design to be one of such emptiness and allows the audience to focus more on the actual action that the performers are trying to convey, which is wonderful indeed.  I will definitely see more work at the Finborough Theatre in the near future. 

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